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Machine Learning with Starbursts

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This article was featured on HackerNoon magazine, YoungCoder, and was featured in Kath Ceceri’s book: Bots! Robotics Engineering with Hands-On Makerspace Activities . Her book is also a fantastic resource for many other activities. This past week I had the opportunity to partner with a local school for the Hour of Code . With the trust and support of the educators, I gave myself a new goal: spend the Hour of Code teaching and coding the basic concepts of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning with 5th and 6th graders — and without the help of any technology, I was left to use Starbursts instead. If I could successfully distill the concepts of A.I. and Machine Learning to a group of 5th graders without relying on any technology, it could create a very compelling case for how unnecessary technology is when it comes to teaching children to code.

A Different Approach to Teaching Kids and Teens to Code

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This article originally appeared in HackerNoon magazine. How do you teach 5th graders about Software Engineering concepts without getting too deep into any particular language? This is a question I’d been asking myself a few weeks in advance of attending a local school’s STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) fair. I’d toyed with one of the standard approaches — move an object from a starting point to a destination with a series of commands (“Move left, turn 90 degrees clockwise, etc.). There are plenty of board games ( Robot Turtles, RoboRally ) and online examples of this concept, and while it definitely presents a clear goal, I’ve always felt the only big take-away for children is that the order of your operations matters. Not only this, but in a more literal sense, challenging problems like movement and rotation as well as object collisions are over-simplified. This leaves children with the wrong impression of programming — that there’s a set of commands out there

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